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NHRCK Recommends Improvement of Visually Disabled Examinees’ Accessibility to Written Government Employment Examinations
Date : 2007.05.09 00:00:00 Hits : 1028

The National Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHRCK) recommended to Seoul Metropolitan Government to provide examination question and answer sheets in braille or large font to visually-disabled examinees for the written examination for open hiring of public servants since the failure to provide such materials discriminatively deprives the visually impaired of equal opportunity to public service employment.

In October 2006, a complainant known as Choi (25-year-old male with grade 3 visual disability) and a complainant known as Kang (28-year-old male with grade 1 visual disability) filed a complaint with the NHRCK, stating " In the 2006 written examination for hiring of government employees, Seoul Metropolitan Government refused the request from visually-disabled examinees for examination question sheets in braille or other forms appropriate for visually disabled persons as well as assistants who could fill in answers as dictated by them. Furthermore, Seoul Metropolitan Government caused the visually-disabled examinees to take the examination in a dimly lit room on the fifth floor that is hard to reach. In sum, it failed to provide them equal opportunity for public service."

Seoul Metropolitan Government refuted the complainants" argument that a lack of convenience facilities and institutional systems necessary for visually-disabled examinees in a written examination for its open hiring of local public servants constituted discrimination and a human rights violation on grounds of disability. Seoul Metropolitan Government also contended that an examination based on open competition under Article 27 of the Local Public Officials Act is a mechanism to hire talented personnel by evaluating applicants" ability and qualifications to perform administrative affairs as required of government employees, and does not constitute a discriminatory act violating the right to equality whereby " specific persons are subject to preferential treatment, exclusion, differentiation, or unfavorable treatment in connection with employment" under the National Human Rights Commission of Korea Act.

In response to Seoul Metropolitan Government" s assertion that an open competition-based examination for government employee recruitment is a system for hiring necessary human resources by assessing their ability to carry out ordinary administrative duties required of government employees, the NHRCK pointed out that in general, computer-based creation of documents, not handwriting, accounts for the vast bulk of public service affairs. It also noted many cases where even persons with severe disabilities can fulfill their duties without major difficulties thanks to recent rapid development in assistive technology and universal dissemination of relevant devices. In addition, the NHRCK regarded ability to perform " ordinary administrative affairs" as the ability to " prepare, deliver, and review documents according to the nature of duties including planning, investigation, human resources management, administration, coordination, reporting, accounting, and analysis regarding human and material resources utilization" and to " collect and analyze information, and make decisions, on the relevant person" s own business affairs."

In this respect, the NHRCK determined that the government employee recruitment examination is a mechanism for hiring talented personnel by evaluating applicants" abilities including their sophistication, knowledge and ability to make good judgments, not their vision. Thus, it found Seoul Metropolitan Government" s assertion that a person with no vision or a visual disability has no administrative ability to be biased and irrational.

The Commission deems people with disabilities entitled to fair assessment of their competence just like persons with no disabilities and that such people should not be subjected to unfair discrimination regarding employment. The Commission also determined that providing accomodations to the disabled in a written examination for government employee recruitment is an intrinsic obligation of the central and local governments for the purpose of integrating the disabled into mainstream society by promoting their advancement to public offices. With regard to the issue in question, the NHRCK believed that Seoul Metropolitan Government should actively render appropriate accomodations to the visually-disabled to assure them equal opportunities for public service.

The status of accommodations being provided to the visually disabled in other written examinations is as follows. Visually disabled persons taking the Korean Scholastic Aptitude Test are to be granted 50% more test time, examination question and answer sheets in braille or large fonts, reading magnifiers, and assistants who can fill in their answer sheets by dictation. In the case of the National Judicial Examination, applicants with visual impairment are entitled to longer testing time, use of appropriate answer sheets, and assistants who fill in answer sheets as dictated by the applicants, and completely blind examinees are provided with braille question and answer sheets and voice-recognizing computers. For the Teacher Recruitment Examination, applicants with visual disabilities are provided with braille or large font question and answer sheets and granted 10 more minutes in the test on the science of education and 20 more minutes in the test on curriculum major during the initial test. Upon request to use assistive devices and computers, the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education may determine whether to accept such request on a case-by-case basis. The Daegu Metropolitan Office of Education allows examinees with poor vision to bring magnifying glasses or desk lamps.

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